“You move around more in one hour than the rest of my patients will move all day. Combined!”
I remember Janet, my therapist at the time, saying those words to me over three and a half years ago.
I simply couldn’t sit still.
I had so much restless energy and I didn’t know what to do with it. I would move my hands, I’d shake my legs, I’d get up and walk around in the middle of talking to her.
I definitely wasn’t someone who you would expect people to one day turn to for advice on mediation…
But finding the gift of meditation was something that helped change my life and literally rewire my brain.
Fast forward to today and I’m a different person as the result of my meditation practice. Every morning I meditate for 11 minutes and about 5 times per week, I meditate for ~30 minutes in the afternoon.
I am calmer. I am clearer. I am able to handle stress better. Simply put, I am a better person as a the result of my practice.
But it wasn’t an easy journey. I didn’t think that I was even actually capable of meditating. I had so many limiting beliefs, excuses and misinformed opinions that were holding me back:
- I can’t even sit still when I’m talking to someone, how the heck am I supposed to sit still and meditate?
- I have ADD which means there is no way I can concentrate!
- My mind is constantly racing, how am I supposed to clear it and not think of anything?
- I’m SOOOO busy! How am I supposed to find time to sit and down and do NOTHING?
- There are so many more important things that I need to be doing…
But guess what?
These were all lies I was telling myself.
It turns out I can meditate. And I’m here to show you how you can too…
A lot of this is just about getting started. Letting go of your thoughts that meditation has to be perfect and comfortable right from the start. It doesn’t.
“There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting.”
Meditation is no different than anything else in life. So much of it is just about showing up and creating a practice, something that works for you. Something that you can continually improve upon (slowly).
I don’t believe that you have to follow any rules for meditation. In fact, I think that’s what holds so many people back from even attempting it. This thought of a rigid practice.
med·i·tate verb \ˈme-də-ˌtāt\
to engage in contemplation or reflection
Notice that it doesn’t say “to sit perfectly still with a straight back and your hands in Buddhi mudra and your mind perfectly still”? No. It’s simply about connecting with your true self and there are many ways to do this.
Here are 9 meditation hacks to help you start (or enhance) your meditation journey….
Close your eyes. Sit up straight (wherever you are is fine). Smile.
Take a deep breath in through your nose and silently count to ONE. Slowly let that breath out through your nose and silently say TWO. Repeat this until you get to TEN.
Start over each time your mind wanders and you lose your count (which will probably happen a few times and that’s just fine.)
Sounds pretty easy right? I still have trouble getting up to ten without my mind wandering. And that’s just fine.
“Not thinking about anything is Zen. Once you know this, walking, sitting, or lying down, everything you do is Zen.”
Take a walk
Meditation doesn’t have to be motionless.
Walking meditation is a form of meditation in action. You simply focus on walking.
Go outside and take a walk and just have the actual walk be your focus. Don’t pick up your phone and text people or use this time to call someone. No. Simply walk and take in the beauty around you (wherever you are, there is always beauty that can be found).
Here’s a guided walking meditation that you can try:
Simply spending a few minutes petting an animal can be a very relaxing and calming activity, especially when it’s done mindfully (when you’re focusing on the activity rather than while you’re doing something else). There is a two-pronged effect whereby your touch calms the animal and at the same time, releases feel-good endorphins in you, reducing your heart rate.
Don’t have a cat, dog or horse to pet? Even spending a few minutes watching fish swim will help you feel less anxious and less stressed.
Research has shown that your body actually goes through physical changes in that time that make a difference in your mood. The level of cortisol, a hormone associated with stress, is lowered. And the production of serotonin, a chemical associated with well-being, is increased.
Watch or Listen
I used guided meditations over 50% of the time when I first started. It helped focus my mind and I thought of them as my “personal trainers” for meditation.
There are so many awesome guided meditations available for free online and for many people this is a great way to get started (or to enhance your practice).
UCLA Mindfulness Research Center
These 8 audio tracks are a great introduction to mindfulness meditation that you can practice on your own.
The Chopra Center for Wellbeing Podcast
Deepak Chopra, M.D. and David Simon, M.D. run The Chopra Center for Wellbeing and put out excellent guided meditations on their podcast. The sessions focus on specific themes ranging from gratitude to taking the plunge.
20+ Hour Playlist on Spotify
This is a wonderfully curated playlist of guided meditations for Spotify users.
YouTube is FULL of guided meditations
YouTube is a goldmine of guided meditations. You can choose to watch & listen or just listen. The link above will bring you to a list of the most popular ones.
This site offers a wealth of guided meditations from different teachers and on many different themes. Download them all for free or stream them directly.
60 seconds. 90 seconds. 180 seconds.
One of the biggest issues I had early on was thinking that I had to sit and meditate for at least 20 minutes or it didn’t count. Looking back I’m not even sure where I got that twenty minute number from.
I wanted to be good at it right from the beginning. This was no different than any other thing that I attempt in my life. I want expertise right away. I don’t want to put in the work…
So one of the ways that I overcame this was by simply sitting and meditating (if you could even call it that) for 60 seconds at a time.
I figured that I could do anything for 60 seconds. And I was right.
Once I got relatively comfortable with that, I’d increase it to 90 seconds. And then 180 seconds.
I like to think in terms of seconds. Seconds were mentally achievable.
Close your eyes. Sit still. Now open up your floodgate of thoughts.
Don’t even attempt to not to have thoughts. You won’t be able to. Instead let them come and simply observe them. Even better, treat them like leaves falling from a tree. Watch them simply float away. Don’t get attached to them.
By embracing your wild thoughts, you take away their power and you can simply just be.
Write 1 page
A big part of meditation for me is simply disassociating with some of the clutter in my mind. It gives me that space to change.
Another great way to do this is to simply pick up a pen and grab a piece of paper and JUST WRITE. I’ve talked about this before with the benefits of the morning pages but this is even simpler, quicker and can be done at anytime of the day.
Write down whatever is one your mind, it doesn’t matter what it is…
- I need to buy eggs on the way home tonight
- I really can’t stand Jim and the way he makes me feel
- How can I find more time to work on my manuscript?
Get it out. Get some space.
Go for a drive
My wife and I have a great relationship and a big part of that is because we are very different people. I hate driving. She enjoys it. So whenever we go somewhere together as a family, she is always the driver and I sit in the passenger seat and read or write (like I’m doing right now).
One day I asked her how can she stand to drive all the time? And her response was really interesting to me.
“It’s very relaxing to me, I treat it as meditation time.”
It doesn’t matter how long the ride is or what the situation is (traffic, no traffic, rain, irate drivers, whatever) I can look over at her and her expression is pretty much always the same. No radio on. No distractions. Just enjoying the drive.
Say ‘thank you’
Gratitude is one of the most powerful emotions that we can experience. I’ve talked before about how gratitude changed my life and it’s something that I practice and live every single day (no matter what else is going on).
It’s a way to step outside of yourself for a bit and a great way to slow down.
Simply sit down and say “Thank you.” It doesn’t matter what your beliefs are, just say “Thank you.” It doesn’t matter if you say it out loud or silently. It doesn’t matter who you are actually saying it to. Just say it. And then say it again. And again. Really feel and mean those words.
Start with “Thank you.”
Then you can progress into thinking about some of the specific things that you are grateful for in your mind. And from there, everything becomes a possibility.
“Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.”
— The Buddha